We are a month into the season and are starting to get a better picture of who is surging and who is slumping. Check out College Baseball Nation's winners and losers of the 2020 season so far.
#1 Florida (16-0)
After narrowly sneaking into the NCAA Tournament and quickly being eliminated a year ago, Florida entered 2020 with higher expectations. The young arms were supposed to have developed and the Gators were expected to compete near the top of the SEC East (behind Vanderbilt and Georgia, of course). Allowing just 2.8 runs per game (good for 11th in the country), Florida's arms are clearly improved in 2020. A 16-0 start, which includes a sweep at rival, Miami, exceeds any fan's highest hopes, and the Gators look destined for Omaha.
#3 Ole Miss (14-1)
There was a lot to like about the 2020 Ole Miss Rebels team coming into the season, including the fact that the Rebels had a strong rotation led by Doug Nikhazy and Gunnar Hoglund and that the Rebels were bringing in the second best recruiting class in the country. The rotation has performed as expected with Nikhazy sporting a 2.35 ERA, Hoglund, a 1.16 ERA, and freshman and Sunday starter, Derek Diamond, holding an impressive 3.48 ERA. Beyond that, the Ole Miss offense has greatly exceeded expectations, leading the country in home runs (31, which is more than 2 HR per game). The Rebels lost Opening Day to Louisville and have not lost since.
#7 Duke (12-3)
Entering the season, Duke Head Coach Chris Pollard said of P Bryce Jarvis: “[He] looks like a bona fide Friday night stud. Candidly, he looks like a first rounder.” After pitching a perfect game and maintaining a tiny 0.48 WHIP, Jarvis has played the part. Opening up ACC play with a series win against Florida State has helped established Duke as one of the early frontrunners in the ACC race.
#8 UCF (15-2)
After just missing a Regional a year ago, UCF looked like a team that could be improved heading into 2020. However, no one thought the Knights would be 15-2 with a series sweep at Auburn. In the next two weeks, UCF plays Miami, Florida State (twice), and ECU to start off American Conference play. All of the games are at home and could give UCF the opportunity to make a huge early-season statement.
#12 Oklahoma (13-4)
It was hard to pick who would challenge Texas Tech in the Big 12 heading into the season, but the Sooners have emerged as the top contender. While the offense has impressed (6.5 runs per game), the Sooners' team ERA of 3.02 highlights the strength of the team. Oklahoma has already notched a series win at #25 Virginia and won two out of three at the Shriners College Classic. The Sooners are looking like a potential Regional host team, if not better.
The Big West
The Big West was consistently a multi-bid league until the past two seasons when it sent just a single team to a Regional. The conference is back on track this season with two teams ranked in the top 25, #16 UCSB and #18 LBSU. Add to that strong starts by Cal State Northridge and Hawaii, and the conference RPI is in a position to boost at least a second team into a Regional. Two of these teams are led by first-year head coaches, Eric Valenzuela at LBSU and Dave Serrano at CSUN.
It is hard to call Vanderbilt a "loser," but when the expectations are to compete for a National Championship, the season has been a little disappointing so far. Two 1-2 tournaments (MLB4 and Southern California College Baseball Classic) have called into question whether the Commodores can compete with elite teams. Pitchers Mason Hickman and Kumar Rocker have both missed starts due to injury and Vanderbilt's offense is scoring only 5.5 runs per games (140th in the country). Some improved health from starters might be all the Commodores need to return to National Championship contender status.
North Carolina (10-7)
With a home series loss to Dallas Baptist and a home sweep at the hands of Notre Dame, the Tar Heels are putting themselves in jeopardy of missing a Regional. In between those series was a losing weekend at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and suddenly, the Tar Heels are heading into week five with only one winning weekend all year (an Opening Weekend series win versus Middle Tennessee). UNC next travels to Duke and may struggle to win a game. An 0-6 start to ACC play might spell the end of the season for the Tar Heels.
The Big Ten
At 94-84, the Big Ten currently has the 12th best record as a conference. Particularly concerning is that the three highest regarded teams heading into 2020, Michigan (8-7), Minnesota (6-10), and Ohio State (5-7), are all struggling. It is not uncommon for the Big Ten to start slowly, but the conference will need to win some of its remaining non-conference games to build the conference RPI. It is worth nothing that Iowa (7-5) and Illinois (8-5) each have some nice wins and are building their at-large cases.
Stanford/Cal State Fullerton/Rice
These three blue bloods of college baseball are a combined 11-36 and 8-33 when you exclude the Stanford vs. Cal State Fullerton series. There is no way around saying that all three of these teams are disappointed. Stanford is replacing most of their offense, while Fullerton and Rice are adjusting to changing coaching staffs. It is unlikely that any of these teams will make a Regional.
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